What is Breast Radiation?

Radiation therapy is a treatment option for some individuals with breast cancer. During this treatment, high-energy particles are used to destroy the cancer cells in the body. Radiation may be used after a lumpectomy or mastectomy procedure as well. The two main types of breast radiation therapy are external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and brachytherapy.

External Beam Radiation

During this treatment, a machine outside of the body focuses the radiation on the area affected by cancer. The exact area that will need treatment will depend on whether an individual had a mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery, and whether or not the cancer affected the lymph nodes. This type of radiation can be used on the whole breast, the chest wall, or the lymph nodes.

There are some short-term side effects that may be caused by external beam radiation, including:

  • Breast swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Skin changes in the treated area such as redness, skin peeling, or darkening of the skin

Some side effects that patients may experience later on include:

  • Smaller and firmer breasts
  • Problems breastfeeding
  • Lymphedema (pain and swelling in the chest or arm)
  • Weakening of the ribs
  • Healing complications during future breast procedures


Also known as internal radiation, brachytherapy is another radiation option. During this procedure, a device that contains radioactive pellets or seeds is placed into the breast for a short time in the area where the cancer has been removed.

There are also different types of brachytherapy, including intracavitary brachytherapy and interstitial brachytherapy.

Intracavitary brachytherapy

This is the most common form of brachytherapy for those with breast cancer. A device is placed into the space left from breast-conserving surgery and is left there until treatment is completed. For each treatment, one or more radiation pellets are placed down through a tube and into the device for a while and is then removed. Treatments are usually given two times a day for five days as an outpatient.

Possible side effects of intracavitary brachytherapy include:

  • Infection
  • Breast pain
  • Redness or bruising
  • Damage to the fatty tissue in the breast
  • Weakness of the ribs
  • Fluid collection in the breast (seroma)

Interstitial Brachytherapy

During this form of treatment, several small catheters are inserted into the breast near the area where the cancer was removed. These catheters are left in place for several days. Radioactive pellets are then inserted into the catheter

Before + After

Patient Results

Breast reconstruction surgery is often a life-changing experience for our patients. Our goal is to help our patients feel whole again after undergoing breast cancer treatment. View our gallery to learn more about the various reconstructive surgeries performed by our board-certified plastic surgeons at Tucson Plastic Surgery.


Patient Reviews

Dr. Kurtovic and her staff are amazing. They are all so friendly, caring and professional. I would highly recommend her.
- DT
Dr. Kurtovic and Dr. Mahabir are incredible. Not only did they give me beautiful results with my surgery, but also kindness, attention to detail, and they listened to what I wanted. I couldn’t be happier…
- CW
Wonderful experience and such a caring practice. You all make a difference, and it shows!
- AS

Tips to Treat Skin Irritation Caused by Radiation

There are many ways that can help to make your skin less sensitive during radiation treatment, including:

  • Moisturizing regularly
  • Dress comfortably in loose-fitting clothes
  • Use warm water rather than hot water when bathing
  • Avoid scrubbing when washing
  • Use soothing creams or salves for mild irritation
  • Do not pick at blisters or peeling skin

Silvia Kurtovic, MD & Raman Mahabir, MD

Board Certified Plastic Surgeons

At Tucson Plastic Surgery, we have a patient-centric approach that sets us apart from the rest. We take the time to really get to know you and your aesthetic goals during one-on-one conversations which help us to fully understand your motivations.

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